Listeners to local radio this month will be getting a double dose of Cowichan Radio, with the station’s live programming temporarily available at two different points along the FM dial.
From Jan. 4 to Jan. 25, the Cowichan Lake area’s community radio will be broadcasting simultaneously at its original frequency (98.7) and its new frequency, 97.5. This overlap period is a mandatory requirement from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission and Industry Canada, which regulates the distribution of radio station frequencies.
“They do that just to make sure our new signal is not interfering with other pre-existing radio stations out there,” said Gordon Davidson, chair of the Cowichan Valley Community Radio Society. “We have listeners who can listen to both and give us comments as to what the reception’s like, and other listeners perhaps who listen to the other adjacent stations to see if we’re causing any interference.”
According to Davidson, the new frequency has been a long time coming for the Cowichan Radio, which has operated in a number of different locations for the past eight years. Although the station is currently based out of Lake Cowichan School’s former music room, its antenna is still on Wellington Road at the station’s previous location.
“It’s not an optimum site for an FM-transmitting antenna,” said Davidson. “FM frequency is basically a ‘line of sight’ situation, so the top of your antenna must reach most of your receivers or radios in the area.”
Michael Bishop, the Radio Station Society’s director, jokingly describes the old location as “like broadcasting from the bottom of a cereal bowl.”
Cowichan Radio’s new antenna is at the end of Deer Road on the way to Youbou, which has increased the station’s reach to include Cycuse, Old Lake Cowichan Road, Paldi, and even as far as the outskirts of Duncan. The station has also increased its power output.
“The old station broadcast at five watts power, which isn’t very much at all,” said Davidson. “Handheld radios broadcast at 5 watts.”
At its new frequency, Cowichan Radio is broadcasting at 50 watts, which not only helps it to reach new listeners but also improves sound quality in Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay, Mesachie Lake and Youbou.
“We want to put the radio on a firm financial basis, and in order to do this our object is to reach as many people as we can so we can interest advertisers to work with us,” said Davidson.
However, Cowichan Radio — which is run entirely by volunteers — is looking for more than just potential ad revenue.
“We started the whole thing wanting to get the community involved,” said Bishop, noting they are always looking for new volunteers to help out, especially on-air as DJs. Bishop and Davidson emphasized the need and desire for more shows.
“The beauty of a community radio station is we’re not bound to any one form of music … We’re just here to provide a service and entertainment to the people who listen to us,” said Davidson. He noted this content is not limited to music, but also interviews, public service announcement and the broadcasting of community events.
Over the coming weeks, the society hopes people will continue to provide feedback on the new frequency’s quality but also on the programming in general.